Why And How I Developed Self-Control #WorkForHappy

megan brewty
Artwork by Megan Brewty

Upon my second and last visit to the hospital, I realized something essential that transformed my outlook on life forever: being depressed is a hell of a lot easier than being happy. I had just realized that the support of my loved ones had run out, and I was officially on my own.

It was time to turn my life around, and I would only have one chance at it. It was now or never. It was life and death.

This is a new self-care series where I will be exploring how to be a better person in my struggle with mental illness. My first lesson: developing self-control.

I Almost Destroyed Myself… Here’s Why Self-Control Is Essential

It’s easy to get sucked into a deep dark hole where you begin to feel completely alone in the world. That’s part of what makes mental illness so isolating. When I fell into that hole, my first instinct was to cry for help. For a while, people listened. However it almost felt like I kept tripping right back in, and each time the hole got deeper and darker. Soon enough, my cries for help either went unheard, or were ignored altogether.

Someone chose to tell me, very bluntly, that though feeling this way seems out of your control, it very much is. It’s in your control to find the right kind of help for your mental illness and work hard to get better. Otherwise, I was choosing a life of isolation.

There was no sugar-coating my reality – this was going to take a lot of work.

What I found out is that self-control is exactly what I was lacking. I had let myself turn into someone I hate. When the time came to face the music, I blamed other people, the system, and society for my behaviour. I had believed, foolishly, that I had no say in who I became.

It’s in my control to find the right kind of help for my mental illness and work hard to get better. CLICK TO TWEET!

I learned the hard way. I do have say in who I become. This is completely and utterly in my control. Unfortunately, I lost years of my life and some people close to me in the course of me understanding this vital lesson.

From that point forward, I began working to change myself into someone I would have looked up to. I want to become the ideal me, then improve myself even more. The girl who cried for help would stay in the past. It was time for me to get better, and be better.

How I Began to Gain Control Back In My Life… And How You Can Too

This wasn’t overnight. I struggled to earn back the trust of my loved ones or to believe in myself. Every minuscule decision I made, every word out of my mouth was scrutinized. The criticism was much needed. I needed desperately to grow. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can practice healthier and stronger self-control.

Here are some reminders I give myself as I continue to practice self-control, even now:

  1. Self-control extends only to yourself. This is my first point because it is absolutely imperative, even though it may seem obvious. You cannot control the behaviour of people around you. Remind yourself that the problematic behaviour of others concerns their own journey. Additionally, don’t let other people’s bad behaviour affect your own behaviour- you have the choice, and that’s solely on you. Excuses won’t get you anywhere.
  2. Self-control depends on your habits. There is one golden rule: replace bad habits with good ones, always. Make a list of behaviours you want to stop and behaviours you want to adopt. Make sure they match. For example, I decided to stop acting out on negative emotions immediately, and to only have discussions about certain issues when I am able to be objective. Through trial and error, I learned that taking a social break or going for a walk when I feel offended helps me a lot. The negative habits (acting out) and positive habits (objective discussion) are related to each other, so I got a proven solution (taking a break).
  3. Self-control should feel empowering. Consistency is key. Whenever you succeed in beating old habits out with new ones, congratulate yourself. Remind yourself how good it feels, and resolve to continue. If you don’t feel positive about certain choices you’re making, consider what you could be doing to improve that. It’s up to you, and only you, to make those changes.
  4. Self-control requires constant growth. You will never stop growing, even if you’ve passed a hundred years in age. We are constantly developing into new people with every phase of our lives, and self-control is no exception. The point is to constantly challenge yourself, and set new goals. There are always opportunities to improve ourselves, so even years and years down the road, remember you are still vulnerable to faltering and should be vigilant of that.
  5. Self-control is not absolute. Yes, you will still be vulnerable to faltering. Sometimes impulsiveness takes the reign and you do what comes naturally to you. Growth is about developing new habits. Acknowledge what you may have done wrong, and think about the factors that may have affected your decision. If they are things you can reasonably change, do it. Regain that control, and use the situation as a learning tool.

I have been developing my self-control for over two years, and I am far from done. I have relied on my loved ones for help and feedback, but the difference between now and then is that they can see me implementing these changes and growing as a person. I am no longer someone who cries for help when I fall down a hole. I am someone who works to get myself out, and asks for help when I need it, not just when I want immediate satisfaction.

I am in control of my actions, and I am working to be happy.


If you would like to continue following me in my mental health journey, be sure to follow my blog and check out my other posts. Also check out my latest creative post, Sugar Sweet! I write poetry and short stories, so be sure to check those out too! Sign up to my email list when I post so you can learn more about it is important to #WorkForHappy.

What choices do you make to practice positive self-control? Let me know in the comments!

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